Ahh, the miracle of the tough Gasol brother. SOOOO glad to see him back, and boy, did it make a difference, psychologically as well as physically. The body language of the whole team was completely different right from the start, on both ends of the floor. Such a heady player (runs in the family, I suppose).
In sharp contrast to the opening night chokefest, this was a very entertaining game, and not just because the Grizzlies held on for a HUGE early-season win.
With apologies to every respectable literary figure in history, I’ll ask a question. How did I love this game? Let me count the ways and the whys:
-Mike Conley, 4 steals. OJ Mayo, 3 steals (with the galaxy-sized one on the final play). Why is this important? Kidd, Terry, and Berea have sliced and diced the Grizzlies for years. Particulary as the game wore on, Mayo looked like, wait for it, a glove on Jason Kidd. It was a good decision from the start to put OJ on the bigger but slower Kidd and Conley on the tall, quick, but not nearly as bulky Jason Terry (on final plays, screens cause switches, and darned if it didn’t work out just fine).
-More than just the guards, there was a very important change on defense for the Griz this game. The rotations were more accurate in terms of direction, players left, players doubled, etc….but most importantly, the first and second rotations were made with deliberate speed, notfreakout-induced panic speed. Yes, the age of the Mavericks makes it easier to forgive slower, more deliberate rotations as compared to the Hawks’ use of a team full of youthful, talented pogosticks, but it worked. Switch, establish position, call a rotation, and execute. Yes, the Mavs still shot well for the game, but the average Griz fan has to be proud of the dogged defense the team played.
-Marc Gasol, ten points and fifteen rebounds, and not one on-court sign of his injury. Did I ever mention that the Grizzlies currently employ my favorite Gasol brother? I think I did, but it’s always worth restating. OJ even used the phrase “rallied around Marc” in the postgame interview (diggin’ BK doing the color commentary-no slight to Touhy, he’s great and a super nice guy to boot, but BK just offers a different perspective and set of insights). If there was any doubt that Gay and Gasol are the two most important players on the team, Rudy’s attempt to shoulder the depleted team against the Hawks and Marc being the difference in this game should erase such doubts. Sure, Chandler and Haywood are not Dwight Howard and Yao Ming, but they are competent centers for sure, and Marc did great against both of them with a had-to-be-gimpy ankle. Gasol, like his brother, sees the court on offense and makes such smart decisions with the ball that it’s just hard to find a hole in his game. Man D? Maybe he’s not lightning-quick in the lateral plane, but his IQ helps him out there.
-MIke Conley, we like the new you. Yes, it’s only two games, and he did NOT shoot the ball well this game, but he’s showing a distinct lack of perimeter ballkilling thus far. Pride in his game is what he is showing, and it needs to continue. If it’s becase he’s in a contract year, so be it-whatever works.
-Darrell Arthur, we like the new you, but we need more rebounds from you. The scoring is an asset that even the most optimistic among us would not have expected in regular season games, particularly the step-out shots, but DA has to get it rocking in the paint on missed shots to truly provide a backup to ZBo who can help hold leads.
-The bench in general. Yes, The Destroyer of Evil looked only marginally better than in the ATL game, but marginally is better than nothing. Tony Allen, while he made a couple of uncharacteristically boneheaded plays (the bobble turnover at a crucial point really hurt) and racked up four fouls in what seemed like two minutes, played the up-in-grill defense that we were promised and that we anticipated. Sam Young was ineffective, but was not necessary. Xavier Henry played an interesting game-he was very involved, especially on offense, and tried to do too much. However, the Grizzlies won the game in spite of his 1-7 shooting and the propensity he showed to commit ill-timed fouls (very few fouls are not ill-timed, eh?). Again, since the Griz won, he gets a rookie pass, and I’m quite glad that Henry (and Hollins) are looking to get #13 more involved with the team.
I’ll be in the house at FEF tomorrow night (can’t beat a $10 club seat). Let’s see if the Grizzlies can come up with some better shooting and really bury the Wolves…
p.s. WAY TO GO OJ! Get in the flow, my man. And stay there.